Three races into 2011 and it’s become pretty clear that it’s going to be a completely different ball game to 2010. China was a representation of this, with overtakes pretty much up and down the field either through KERS of DRS, but it was the tyres supplied by Pirelli that ultimately brought about not only the biggest headache for the pit-walls, but also the most entertainment for the fans. But what are the main summaries we can garner from probably one of the most exciting races in recent years?
Two-stops vs three stops is closer than first thought. Anyone remember Hungary 1998? Michael Schumacher made a three-stop strategy work to perfection by putting the fast laps in needed to beat the two-stopping McLarens for a quite impressive win. It also put Ross Brawn on the map for being a bit bright when it came to calling the shots over the team radio. This season, the mandatory use of both the prime and the option means that there’s a lot more variables in tyre strategy. But, as China showed, there’s a closer margin between stopping twice and relying on the prime to get you home and stopping three times and making up the time an extra pit-stop creates. Winner Lewis Hamilton was on a three-stop, but second place man Sebastian Vettel was only passed with four laps to go. That’s pretty close in our books. That means there are really two main strategies teams can try and there’s barely a cigarette paper between them.
Qualifying on the primes isn’t too much of a hindrance anymore. Just ask Mr. Webber. Starting on the harder tyre and taking the hit in overall speed at the start of the race (where you’re bound to be held up by slower cars and bogged down anyway) means you will be on the grippier option tyre towards the end of the race. Front runners will always be moving at quite a brisk pace at the start, and to do so will obviously be on the options, meaning when the time comes for their prime stints, the cars further down the field will be on options and moving several seconds a lap faster. After Mark’s performance at the weekend, many teams – especially ones like Ferrari and Mercedes who have struggle to keep up with big boys so far – may try experimenting by not going out in Q2 or, sponsor permitting, maybe even Q1.
It’s introduced a bunch of new slang terms to listen to on the radio. “Phase 1” is the period in which a tyre has the best amount of grip and are working well, while “Phase 2” is when they have surpassed that and it’s time for new shoes. Listen out for those gems when the radio graphic crops up on the screen during the Turkey race. The best one so far though is when the tyres “fall off the cliff” and have no grip on them whatsoever. We literally can’t wait for Felipe Baby’s first nannying session from Rob Smedley over the airwaves.
It creates overtaking that isn’t KERS or DRS assisted. And in the corners too. Sorry to rant on about Webber again, but looking back over the race the majority of his passes were made in corners and not on the straights with KERS or in the designated DRS zone. It was all down to having the grip in the corners where his victims were struggling. The new regs aren’t about just boosting past a slower car it seems.
Pirelli have met the mandate set for them by the FIA. That’s the most positive point to come out of a Pirelli review is that they have ticked all the boxes asked of them. The last race that resembled what happened on Sunday was Montreal last year, which was the brief the FIA delivered for the Italian manufacturer. As mentioned in previous articles, they’ve gone against the grain of what a tyre company stands for; durability. And we, as entertained fans, can’t thanks them enough. Michael Schumacher take note – this is how you make a comeback into Formula One.